Have you been following along this month of looking at a different kind of productivity and working more with your values and life’s mission in mind? It’s a big task, looking deep inside yourself to figure out what’s important to you, what your purpose is, and what you want to be remembered for. I don’t ask you these things lightly, but I ask them because in order to make the most of the time you have on this earth, they need to be answered.
Can we simply open our laptops each day and hammer out some words toward a novel? Sure. But experiencing what I have in my own writing career, and in talking to other writers, I know that even that much is often a major struggle. I often find that it isn’t a lack of inspiration or discipline that keeps us from writing, it’s a lack of big picture purpose pulling you toward your goals that keeps you from putting in the time each day. A lack of deeper meaning allows your motivation to fizzle out, and then you end up wasting away or giving away the time you could be using to further your writing career and live your ideal life.
Are we on the same page here? Okay, enough of the heavy talk.
Organizing Your Day Around Your Writing
Now I want to share a few logistical tips that have been helping me in my new mission of slowing down and prioritizing. Once you’ve figured out where your priorities are, how do you manage your day so you can put those priorities first?
Here are a few things to try:
Yes, I’m going there first. I promise, I don’t have a vendetta against Facebook or social media in general. In fact, I’m incredibly grateful to social media for giving me the opportunity to connect with other like-minded people (like you!) and to give me a microphone to spread ideas that inspire me.
This goes for email too, and any other device where others can make demands on your time. Social media can very quickly become overwhelming, especially if, like me, you’re using it as a platform to grow your career. It’s okay–great, even–to offer support to others and foster your online relationships, but in order to live in line with your values, you must put your personal work and goals first.
Additionally, the fast pace of social media can put you into a frazzled, broken mind space so that even if you do carve out the time to do your work, you may not have the mental acuity to give it your 100% focus.
By all means, connect, but do it once you’ve done the important work. Your life’s work.
I’ve been doing mine right after the kids go to sleep, for an hour max no matter how many notifications I have, and it’s been working wonderfully.
As a bonus tip, I recently started using Buffer to schedule marketing posts–those are a different beast all together–so that I can share resources without having to open social media platforms at all.
On the flip side of the coin, take care of you first. Ideally, I mean very first, getting up before you’re needed by anyone else and giving yourself some quiet time to feed your soul on a daily basis. If you’ve followed my blog or Facebook profile for very long, you know waking up early is a constant battle for me, but I continue to work on it because I know how valuable it is. When I’m disciplined enough to drag myself out of bed and read, journal, do yoga, plan my day, or even just have a cup of coffee in silence, my day goes so much smoother, and I have more patience with my family and myself.
Do you know what refills your well? Is self-care still a bit of a mystery to you? That’s okay–it looks different to everyone.
As I mentioned in my last post, self-care is what you do to refill your well that has a long term effect. Remember that things like trolling Facebook and watch TV don’t fall into this category because they have short-term effects. Being a writer, I consider reading a form of self-care because it inspires me and I learn from it. YouTube is another go-to because I’m focused on watching vides that motivate me from sources I trust.
There are literally as many other forms of self-care as there are people on this planet so make a list for yourself that you can refer back to. Is it taking a walk or other exercise? Is it getting weekly manicures or pedicures or regular massages? Phone calls with your parents or regular dates with your friends? Writing craft books? Whatever it is, fill the well before you draw from it. If you do, you’ll find that when you sit down to write, you’re more alert, centered, and inspired.
Once you’ve created the mental space and time to write, the hardest part can be doing the actual writing. We’ve been trained to multitask and have scattered focus (yes, I’m talking about social media again!), but we also put a lot of pressure on the creation of our art. We have deadlines, external or internal. We put pressure on ourselves to write the perfect book on the first draft. We’re constantly worried about how the story will be received or if it’s going to create the publishing or career outcome you’re looking for.
Take it easy on yourself. Take it easy on your muse. Take it easy on your heart. Earnest Hemingway once said, “Write drunk, edit sober.”
And for your sanity’s sake, please don’t try to do both at the same time.
For a more literal break, to give you optimum focus, check out the Pomorodo Technique, in which you write for 25 minutes, and then step away from your work for 5 minutes. I’ve been using the Tide app (available for both Apple and Android), which is visually appealing and offers several different ambiances. This type of time structure often encourages more focus during the working time, knowing you’ll have a break soon instead of having large expanses of time ahead of you (if you’re so blessed) that can slip away from you before you realize it.
I also love this kitchen timer method that incorporates journaling.
What techniques do you use to make writing a bigger priority in your day? Do you have any tools that work well for you?